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Belize places high in Caribbean STEM Olympiads

HighlightsBelize places high in Caribbean STEM Olympiads

Photo: Giselle Garcia, Muffles’ Computer Coding Olympiad winner

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 29, 2024

The Caribbean STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Olympiads, held virtually from January 17 to 21, 2024, witnessed stellar performances from students of Muffles College in Orange Walk Town and Belize High School (BHS) in Belize City, placing them among the top representatives of the country.

Giselle Garcia from Muffles College High School clinched the platinum medal in the Level 1 Computer Coding Olympiad with her project titled “Protective Measures.”

The project, a multi-level video game designed to educate young people on hurricane preparedness, impressed the judges with its interactive approach and informative content. Carim Ramirez, Garcia’s teacher and mentor, expressed pride in her achievement: “She did an excellent job … the judges were very, very impressed. They were asking her, ‘How old are you? How are you able to do this? How long have you been doing this?’ Because the work that she did was excellent.”

At just 13 years old, Garcia independently built and researched for her project, using the knowledge of coding she learned in her first-form class.

Muffles College also celebrated the success of Team Techtactic, comprising Osmar Lopez, Ryan Coc, Jaevanie De Paz, and Mannat Lalwani, who secured gold with their project, “Quest of Survival.” Additionally, Miguel Pech, Rue Hung, and Mannat Lalwani won silver in the Level 1 Math Olympiad.

Denzel Armstrong, a mathematics teacher and mentor at Muffles College, expressed pride in their achievements. “It gives us assurance that our programs are working, and it gives us a boosted confidence in our students and in our country, and in our ability as teachers and as students to show that there’s a level of proficiency and competence when it comes to these areas,” he told us.

He was particularly proud of the student’s accomplishment, given the major setback and effect the pandemic had on the growth of the student’s mathematical sharpness. “Securing a win as well in the Mathematics Olympiad, especially since our country doesn’t run one anymore, shows that we have competency when it comes to mathematics,” he expressed.

The Math Olympiad, conducted in a Jeopardy-style format, covered topics from consumer arithmetic to vector calculus. The Computer Coding Olympiad tasked applicants with creating apps, games, and websites aimed at solving challenges faced by Caribbean communities, such as sustainable development and awareness of environmental hazards.

In total, 131 students from eleven Caribbean countries registered for the 2024 Olympiads, with 39 teams making it to the finals.

Medals and cash prizes were awarded for platinum, gold, silver, and bronze achievements.

BHS’ Team CATALYST, featuring Lia Hunt, Aden Zabaneh, Maliyah Casey, and Daniel Sharp, won silver in the Level 2 Computer Coding Olympiad with their project “MyCRIME.”

The project, an app providing live statistics and updates on local crimes, aimed at enhancing public safety.

“The solution that Team Catalyst decided on was Public Safety. The app they created would be a user-friendly app that would share live statistics for the area. A special feature was an alert that would be sent directly to the Police Department. The app was created by the students, and with the support of Mr. Gabriel Casey, the app was presented as a ‘live app.’ I am pleased with this performance by our young Belizeans,” expressed IT teacher and mentor Godfrey Sosa of BHS.

Jamie Usher, BHS’ principal shared her enthusiasm with us stating, “… part of our education has to be that we’re not just working in a bubble. We have to think bigger and we have to ask our kids to participate in a wider range. So, when they see what other teens their age … it doesn’t matter if they’re Caribbean, doesn’t matter if they’re European. We want them to know what other kids their age are doing, so that we can be as competitive as them, because we don’t want to be the little Belizean who, you know, didn’t realize that all of this was happening.”

With the ongoing efforts of BHS to put Belize on the map when it comes to STEM education, their next quest is to tackle the annual FIRST Lego competition this coming March in Oklahoma, U.S.A.

They also plan to engage Belizean students in robotics in their first-ever Belize National First Lego League Challenge 2024, which will be held on March 16 at the Belize Elementary School gymnasium. “We’re asking kids to come over to the gym for that day if they want to join in this robotics and practical application scenario,” Usher said.

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